Chelsea settles for a point against the Saints after a woefully lackluster and pitifully deficient performance by the defense and the keeper.
Games like the home tie against Southampton will lead Chelsea fans to bite their fingernails and pull their hair out. The out-and-out exasperating, for much—but not all—of the game, was totally aggravating. After maybe 30 or so minutes of attacking brilliance, the Blues resorted to their usual poor defense and surrendered three goals to throw away what should have been three easy points.
They had to ultimately settle for a draw against a Saints team that consists basically of the brilliant Danny Ings (one of the most underrated strikers in the Premier League) and the rest of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s rather mediocre men. Yet, ironically in some ways, they should be grateful for the single point. A couple of near misses by the Saints saved Chelsea from a complete embarrassment and meltdown.
As per usual, without the steadying presence of Thiago Silva, Chelsea’s central defense was mistake-prone, howler-providing and simply not good enough. Every Chelsea fan probably holds their breath every time a ball is played back either to the defense or to the keeper. One of those defenders is the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde player, Kurt Zouma.
Zouma is a master in the air, and he has even improved his effectiveness in heading toward the goal , with two goals already testify to that improvement. Even against Southampton, he had a nice effort on target, but it didn’t reach the back of the net. Capable of near greatness at times, Zouma is nonetheless plagued by moments of complete defensive ineptitude; one of which cost the Blues two points. He mishit a backward pass to Kepa Arrizabalaga and it resulted in a foolishly conceded goal.
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In addition to Zouma’s defensive lapses and an almost comical inability by the entire club to complete passes to someone else in a blue shirt, Arrizabalaga was his usual self. He had a chance or two to save after Zouma’s miscue, but couldn’t get it done. It seems he surrenders multiple goals in every start in the Premier League. His presence in goal basically puts the club on the back foot in every game he features in.
It’s a basic and major flaw at Chelsea now that Edouard Mendy is on the shelf. Some had argued that signing a keeper on a free transfer for a capable back-up should be considered in light of Mendy’s injury. Unfortunately, Chelsea sat on its collective hands, did nothing and immediately suffered the consequences. Simply put, Arrizabalaga is not a Premier League level keeper.
The sad part of this tie—which seems more like a loss once again since the two points were tossed away—is that the much-anticipated super offense finally showed itself in the first half of the game. It was impressive as the ball flowed freely from Ben Chilwell to Kai Havertz to Christian Pulisic to Timo Werner and back again.
Much to the delight of the home fans, both Werner and Havertz opened their accounts in the league. Werner’s brace provided the Blues with a 2-0 lead, which would ultimately be blown. Chilwell was also superb, rampaging down the left side and Pulisic was back, looking fit and sharp. However, the American lacked the directness he had exhibited last season after the suspension of play. However, per usual in the league, the Blues were again unable to string together a complete performance.
This maddening inconsistency will doom any chance Chelsea has of competing either in the Premier League or the Champions League, if not in the FA Cup as well. The Blues still remain flawed in central defense and did nothing but bring in the aging—yet still superb—Silva in the transfer window. However, what they needed then—and still need—is a top central defender with height, ability in the air and toughness. A Virgil van Dijk or Niklas Sule type, preferably.
In addition, while securing Mendy was great, it’s now becoming clear that one good goalkeeper is not enough in the Premier League. Look no further than Manchester United—who has two top keepers in David de Gea and Dean Henderson—to prove this. The Red Devils are aware, as the Blues don’t seem to be, that a weak back-up can spell disaster in the competitions in which they seek to contend. It’s no longer tenable to have just one good keeper because injuries, fatigue or any long hiatus on international cup duty can spell catastrophe.
The Blues risk needlessly dropping points whenever Mendy is on the bench. Chelsea must secure another good keeper and a world class young central defender in order to avoid these inconsistent results. If these moves are not made, the likelihood of Chelsea claiming titles will remain slim.